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Grand Rapids' appeal lies in its combination of simple pleasures and sophisticated attractions. In the heart of one of the state’s most popular resort areas, with more than 1,000 lakes and at least 1,000 miles of trails, the Itasca county seat is perceived primarily as a recreational vacation spot. And although that’s true, the little city of about 8,000 and the area around it also act as a magnet for people involved in the arts. As a result, it’s one of Minnesota’s culturally rich communities, supporting the arts more vigorously than some cities several times its size. Each season, the Myles Reif Performing Arts Center acts as venue for ...

Grand Rapids' appeal lies in its combination of simple pleasures and sophisticated attractions. In the heart of one of the state’s most popular resort areas, with more than 1,000 lakes and at least 1,000 miles of trails, the Itasca county seat is perceived primarily as a recreational vacation spot. And although that’s true, the little city of about 8,000 and the area around it also act as a magnet for people involved in the arts. As a result, it’s one of Minnesota’s culturally rich communities, supporting the arts more vigorously than some cities several times its size. Each season, the Myles Reif Performing Arts Center acts as venue for some 40 or more shows and concerts – ranging from Broadway plays presented by touring companies to dance spectaculars mounted by participants in the center’s own program for young dancers. Itasca Orchestral Society concerts, Grand Rapids Players spring musical and fall dramatic production are other well-attended events, as are the monthly performances of the West Range Country Show and the Mississippi Melodie Showboat performances. An actual showboat serves as stage for the latter, with the audience in stadium seating on the riverbank.

The city’s largest employer, UPM Blandin Paper Company, operates a large mill which produces high-quality paper. Other major industries are tourism, mineral processing and agriculture. Just outside town on County Road 76, the Forest History Center has recreated a pine logging camp, complete with cook shack, bunkhouse, blacksmith shop and other buildings, presided over by costumed lumberjacks. At the center, the popular 100-foot fire tower provides eagle-eye views of the surrounding landscape. In-town attractions include Judy Garland’s childhood home; Central School, which now houses specialty shops and the Historical Society Museum; Blandin Paper Mill Tours; and a very special Children’s Discovery Museum. Two of the museum’s displays that delight both children and adults are the more than 200 classic fairytale dolls donated by their creator Faith Wick and a model old-fashioned village and train set. At nearby Calumet, the Hill Annex State Park tours show passengers how iron was mined in the area. Fossil hunting — for sharks teeth and the like – is another popular park-sponsored activity.

Connie Emerson
About the Expert

Connie Emerson is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Cheapskate's Guide to Branson, Missouri and Eyewitness Top Ten Travel Guide – Las Vegas.

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Connie Emerson for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    May through September